I was expecting rain, which did not happen. I was not expecting the blustery winds that did happen! Still, the Whidbey Island Half Marathon turned out surprisingly well for me (despite a difficult course and wind-related obstacles). I set two alarms for 5:40 and 5:45 and woke up easily. My hotel bed was amazingly comfortable and I slept well. Even though I woke up every two hours on the dot I fell right back to sleep, so that's a good night's sleep for me. One of the benefits of traveling alone is that you don't have to be considerate of anyone. So I got up, fixed a whole wheat English muffin with PB and fruit spread, took my Americano out of the fridge, and brought it all back to bed where I remained for another 45 minutes. Then I quickly dressed and geared up for the race. The temperature forecast was for mid-40s so I thought I'd wear a jacket to the start and check it. I didn't want to leave a new jacket so I used my old black Lucy jacket that has served me so well. Here is how I thought I'd be running, in my new blue Boston-bound Lucy top. Note the ill-fated, but matchy, Maui Marathon cap. I left the hotel about 7:20 or so to jog the mile to the start. I immediately realized that it was very windy. About halfway there my hat blew off and I had to run after it. Not a good sign! I stopped at Starbucks along the way to use the bathroom. While I was waiting in line I unpinned my bib from the blue shirt and repinned it on my jacket. The wind just made it seem too cold to leave the jacket behind. I have never run Whidbey without wearing a jacket...I don't know why today would be different. I got to the start about ten minutes before 8. It was good not to stand around too long, and I quickly joined the crowd that was forming near the starting line. I tried to stand by people who looked like they might run a 9-minute pace. Don't ask me how I determine that...just on a hunch. The run started on an uphill...not too steep but fairly long. I remember last year my first mile was exactly nine minutes but I was slower than that this time. In the second mile we got some payback in the form of going downhill. The wind quickly became a problem in the first few miles. It wasn't long before my hat started to blow off my head. I managed to catch it but couldn't get it back on, so I ran carrying it for a while. As long as I was running into the wind this wasn't too bad as the wind kept my hair out of my face. But when we turned around (on an out and back) my hair whipping in my face was incredibly irritating. So I actually stopped to get my hat back on my head. That only lasted a few minutes, and the next time it blew across the road and was picked up by someone else. That was enough to show me I shouldn't Lose any more time messing with the hat. I resigned myself to carrying the hat and my hair flopping in my face Justin Bieber-style (pre-haircut). I still spent a lot of time pushing it away and shaking my head around! It was a pain in the neck (I chose that word deliberately). I was also having trouble getting an accurate pace reading on my Garmin. Rather than stressing, I decided to stop looking at it and just run by feel. I think I only looked at it 3-4 times again, and only to check distance. My objective for this run, after all, was not to try for a great time but rather to practice running marathon pace effort. The course was fairly gentle for the first six miles, through Windjammer Park. After that I knew the hills began. The next 3.5 miles had a lot of uphill. There were a couple of rolling downhills, and a lengthy flat stretch as well, but there was a lot of incline. The turnaround was shortly before 9.5 miles. In these last three or so miles we got to go back down a number of the hills we had climbed. Last year I really hauled ass in the final 5K. I didn't want to do that this year because I didn't want to over-tire my legs or wreck my quads a week before Boston. But when you are looking at long stretches of downhill it is hard not to try to compensate for the slow uphills. So I picked up the pace and tried to run at least a little faster in the final few miles. When we passed the 12-mile mark my time read 1:50 (this would be one of the few times I checked the Garmin). I had sped up to at least a 9-minute pace and figured if the markers were right I could finish under two hours. However I was pretty sure the markers were a little shy and there was probably more like 1.25 miles to go. At that point I officially abandoned my "take it easy" philosophy and poured it on. (I later saw that my time for mile 12 was 8:16 and my pace for the final tenth was 8:09.) It was very close. My clock time when I crossed the finish line was 2:00:16 and my watch said 2:00:10. There is almost no chance of the chip time being ten seconds faster, so I'm stuck with two hours, I'm sure. On the good side (and it's mostly all good), I didn't really expect to be this near to two hours. The only downside is, well, 10 seconds! C'mon! If it hadn't been for the wind-hat drama.... It was 10 am when I finished and the shuttles left at 10:30. So I went directly to the massage tent for a 15-minute massage. While I was on the table the wind was whipping around the roof of the tent, and it seemed even colder 20 minutes later while I waited for the shuttle. The evening news just said that Oak Harbor just now got a 46 mph gust...I'm pretty sure we didn't have anything that bad. So that was the last of my major pre-Boston runs. I'm looking at a couple short ones this week before we leave, then one on Friday in New Hampshire before heading into Boston. It's time!